Subject: Re: [ Re: indy audio]
To: Martijn Bakker <>
From: None <>
List: port-sgimips
Date: 07/16/2003 10:55:44
Just a few thoughts, no firm conclusions.

In the coding guidelines for writing GNU software, the issue
of using one piece of software as an aid in writing another
piece of software is dealt with. The suggestion is to make 
the code as different from the original as possible, design-wise
and implementation-wise so that it can never be said that
code was copied. Better yet, write the new piece of software
from scratch without recourse to the other -- which, of course
is impractical in the case of writing a device driver for a
device for which there exists no other documentation.

More problematic, in the case of a device driver, is the fact
that there's only so much that can be done differently, since
eventually a very similar set of instructions must be sent
to the hardware to get it to do the same thing -- there is 
likely little room for optimization. Except for the considerable
differences between the Linux and BSD device driver framework
and APIs, the core logic will probably be pretty much the same.
This is likely to be the case whether or not an intermediate
step of abstracting the code to the "Documentation Layer" is

As far as documenting a GPL'd program, that can be looked at,
in my opinion, as writing a fairly technical article about
said program, and in that light, the author would be free to
decide the distribution terms of his article.

How did the Linux driver get written? Is there truly no 
documentation? Has the author been asked for whatever 
3rd party documentation he may have?

Alternatively, since the device driver framework in NetBSD
is pretty modular anyways, it is not impossible to have a
GPL licenced driver, although that may offend the aesthetic
sense of some.

[Not to be construed as speaking on
 behalf of either the GNU or NetBSD projects]


On Wed, Jul 16, 2003 at 04:25:59PM +0200, Martijn Bakker wrote:
> Hello there,
> since the Linux kernel is GPL-licensed, I think I can ask this question here.
> below this message there is another one with a dilemma in it, on which I
> don't have an answer. Can you give us your opinion in this matter?
> My actual questions are:
> - can one make documentation from the sourcecode of a GPL'ed program, and
>   create another program with another license (in this case the BSD one)
>   according to the specs contained in the document?
> - what license will the documentation get?
> Thanks in advance,
> Martijn Bakker
> ----- Forwarded message from Steve Rumble <> -----
> Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 08:45:17 -0400
> From: Steve Rumble <>
> To: Martijn Bakker <>
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: indy audio
> On Wed, 16 Jul 2003 09:56:47 +0200
> Martijn Bakker <> wrote:
> > There is little released documentation, but Linux has audio working on
> > it. Even the volume buttons on the fromt work.
> I don't know much about licenses, but is it possible for one to document
> the hardware using the linux code and have another implement a
> BSD-licensed driver based on that documentation?
> [snip]
> -Steve
> ----- End forwarded message -----

"Our vision is to speed up time, eventually eliminating it."
                -- Alex Schure